fum·ble | \ˈfəm-bəl \
fumbled; fumbling\ˈfəm-b(ə-)liŋ \

Definition of fumble 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to grope for or handle something clumsily or aimlessly

b : to make awkward attempts to do or find something fumbled in his pocket for a coin

c : to search by trial and error

d : blunder

2 : to feel one's way or move awkwardly

3a : to drop or juggle or fail to play cleanly a grounder

b : to lose hold of a football while handling or running with it

transitive verb

1 : to bring about by clumsy manipulation

2a : to feel or handle clumsily

b : to deal with in a blundering way : bungle

3 : to make (one's way) in a clumsy manner

4a : misplay fumble a grounder

b : to lose hold of (a football) while handling or running



Definition of fumble (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an act or instance of fumbling

2 : a fumbled ball

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Other Words from fumble


fumbler \ˈfəm-b(ə-)lər \ noun
fumblingly \ˈfəm-b(ə-)liŋ-lē \ adverb

Examples of fumble in a Sentence


She fumbled in her pocket for her keys. They fumbled a good opportunity to take control of the market. He was hit hard and fumbled on the 20-yard line. He fumbled the ball on the 20-yard line.


played the entire piano piece without a single fumble
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

After years of fumbling around with a rebuild that was going nowhere, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka played the past 12 months perfectly. Andrew Sharp, SI.com, "The Risks and Rewards of LeBron James on the Lakers," 2 July 2018 Giacometti quit Surrealism in 1935 and went back to working from life, with fumbling uncertainty during the next ten years. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "Giacometti’s Skinny Sublimity," 6 June 2018 Trump accused the attorney general Wednesday of fumbling the investigation by leaving it to an independent inspector general. Chris Strohm, Bloomberg.com, "Sessions Defends Integrity After Trump Attack Over FISA Probe," 28 Feb. 2018 But the confusion subsided, at least for the fans and referees, when it was determined that the system was showing the replay of the shot hitting the post—not that of Valladares fumbling the rebound off the post. Danielle Elliot, Popular Mechanics, "How It Works: World Cup Goal Line Technology," 21 June 2014 And the queens who fumble or find its not their time to win the crown will go home. Joe Lynch, Billboard, "'Drag Race' Winner Aquaria Talks Victory, Melania Trump & That Butterfly Snafu," 29 June 2018 The bigger picture, however, takes a back seat to Patrick's status as a walking time bomb, fumbling from one awkward situation the next, craving chemically induced relief. Brian Lowry, CNN, "Benedict Cumberbatch shines in Showtime's dark 'Patrick Melrose'," 11 May 2018 The defense tormented Auburn's two younger quarterbacks in the spring, forcing several interceptions from Malik Willis and Joey Gatewood and fumbles from multiple players. James Crepea, AL.com, "After commanding spring, Auburn defense aiming to be nation's best in 2018," 8 Apr. 2018 The man begins to fumble about his bags, neglecting one very important component of his belongings: the kid with him. Christina Oehler, Woman's Day, "This Airport Security Agent's Incredible Save Will Leave You Breathless," 22 July 2015

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Higgins recorded 145 tackles on the season and caused four fumbles. Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star, "High school football: 10 small-school Indianapolis-area players to watch," 9 July 2018 On a third down in the third quarter, Lewis pushed the left tackle into South quarterback Kyle Lauletta, and combined with Oklahoma's Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to cause a sack fumble. Tim Bielik, cleveland.com, "Jalyn Holmes, Tyquan Lewis both make impact plays: How Ohio State players fared in 2018 Senior Bowl," 28 Jan. 2018 The experts seem to agree that's because of his turnovers — interceptions and fumbles. Randy Harvey, latimes.com, "ESPN will have all the news about the NFL draft — until it's time to announce the selections," 24 Apr. 2018 Japerri Powell recovered a Winter Park fumble in the end zone early in the first quarter Wednesday, helping the Dr. Phillips Panthers beat the Wildcats 14-7 in the varsity portion of a spring football game. OrlandoSentinel.com, "Dr. Phillips edges Winter Park in rain-soaked spring football game," 17 May 2018 The turnover ratio wasn’t out of whack a year ago because the defense proved particularly efficient at recovering fumbles. Brad Biggs, chicagotribune.com, "Ten questions for the Bears looking ahead to Matt Nagy's first training camp," 8 June 2018 Mansfield Legacy defensive lineman Taurean Carter celebrates recovering a Midlothian fumble during the first half. Brian Gosset, star-telegram, "DFW’s top 50 high school football recruits for the Class of 2019," 7 June 2018 The other defensive touchdown came when defensive end Alex Okafor sacked Stafford in the end zone, and safety Kenny Vaccaro was right there to recover the fumble. Josh Katzenstein, NOLA.com, "Affecting the passer goes far beyond sacks for Saints defense," 1 June 2018 Derek Barnett, the rookie defensive end who recovered the Brady fumble caused by Graham, has undergone sports hernia surgery. Les Bowen, Philly.com, "Brandon Graham joins list of Eagles recovering from surgery," 17 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fumble.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of fumble


1534, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1634, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fumble


probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Swedish fumla to fumble

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Statistics for fumble

Last Updated

19 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fumble

The first known use of fumble was in 1534

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More Definitions for fumble



English Language Learners Definition of fumble

: to search for something by reaching or touching with your fingers in an awkward or clumsy way

: to handle something in an awkward or clumsy way

sports : to fail to catch or hold the ball


fum·ble | \ˈfəm-bəl \
fumbled; fumbling

Kids Definition of fumble

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to feel about for or handle something in a clumsy way He fumbled in his pockets.

2 : to lose hold of the ball in football



Kids Definition of fumble (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act of losing hold of the ball in football

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Comments on fumble

What made you want to look up fumble? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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